One of only a handful of women painters in Louis K. Meisel’s stable of top Photorealists in the early 1970s,Fran Bull, by the mid-‘80s, had quit the movement, moved to Vermont and turned toward a more nourishing figural and gestural abstraction. In the years since, she has created a distinctive and profound body of work. Bull’s paintings, etchings and relief sculpture have been prominently exhibited in Barcelona, Milan and the Venice Biennale. Now, rather than waiting for the retrospective that is her due, she’s charged ahead with a book that pits her poetry against her two-dimensional work of the past three decades.
Voice is at the heart of both Bull’s poetry and her visual form — not surprising for a classically trained singer. Her semi-abstract imagery takes on the female body as a site of reverie, sensations, dreams, relationship and sound. Her fluid marks reveal rudimentary heads, mouths and bodily forms. Her figures are archetypal — elegant and elegiac, or raw and emotive. Their bundled energies almost bursting their boundaries call to mind a toddler’s drawing or the bubble of an infant just beginning to vocalize.
Explosive forces constantly confront restraints. Black larks throw themselves against a low ceiling; a starburst presses against its frame; a splotch within a splotch coheres as the tongue and throat of a singer expanding into the space of her own voice. The book, which encompasses Bull’s paintings, drawings and prints alongside her poems, is the brainchild of her previous collaborator, the distinguished New Jersey book designer Yolanda Cuomo. Cuomo proposed Bull merge both sides of her creative output into a single, polished form. The resulting book, published by the Italian art-publisher Damiani, is polished and daring beyond expectation.